This curriculum unit is designed to help young children acquire skills through the study of film. One might wonder how the power of the screen can be utilized in a first or second grade setting. Teachers generally show a film for entertainment, reward or enrichment purposes. But there is concern about school film viewing because teachers are in a battle for children’s attention and they often blame the passive viewing habits of movies and television as the foe. There a positive role for films that teachers can readily adapt for their classroom. My premise is that children can be taught to be active learners if film study is connected to literature.
This unit will focus on the genre of science fiction and develop many strategies that promote learning. I teach children aged six to eight in a self-contained classroom at Bishop Woods School in New Haven. The learning and language disabilities of these students vary, but they participate in many mainstream activities during their day. These students struggle to learn skills in reading, writing and language. They are often quite aware of their deficiencies and withdraw from language situations that put them at risk. Some children are impulsive and meet rejection or criticism frequently. But all of these students enjoy a movie and watch with rapt attention. The elementary teachers that I have spoken to all agree that viewing a film is a very powerful class reward. Selecting an appropriate film that will maintain attention is a teacher’s first task. Ideally, the teacher has previewed the film or found a film with a unit connection. Sometimes teachers can take a story and find a film version to extend the learning and enjoyment. It is this connection to literature that makes films a worthwhile investment. But young students need very specific guidance to make this connection and I have organized several sections that offer preliminary concepts for developing young reviewers instead of passive young viewers .